Coast Guard adds teeth to its arsenal in eastern India

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The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) added much needed muscle to its Air arm by formally commissioning a squadron of Dhruv Mk-III helicopters to the Coast Guard Region (North East) at the Force’s air enclave here on Sunday.

The 830 Sqn is commanded by Commandant Anurup Singh who has 11 officers and 46 other ranks to assist him.

Coast Guard Region (North East) has its headquarters in Kolkata and is in charge of operations along the nearly 695 km long contiguous coastline of Odisha and West Bengal.

The Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) squadron at Bhubaneswar was commissioned by of VS Pathania, Director General, ICG, who is presently on a tour of Coast Guard Region (North East).

The Dhruv Mk-III helicopters, built by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) is far more advanced than the ageing Chetaks or Alouette – IIIs that the ICG have been operating till now.

The single-engine Alouette – III has completed 60 years of service with the Indian armed forces.

“Coast Guard Region (North East) operates along difficult terrain. Coastal Odisha and West Bengal are lashed by cyclonic disturbances every year. Thousands of fishing trawlers at sea have to be warned and brought back to harbour. There are accidents as well, when the ICG Air arm plays a vital role in vectoring ships to the location.

Several ports are also located along this coastline and the movement of ships have to be monitored. We do operate fixed wing Dornier aircraft but helicopters are far more versatile and can also be activated from Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs),” a senior ICG official said.

The twin engined Dhruv-III has a range of 660 km and got an array of state-of-the-art sensors. Powered by Shakti engines, these helicopters that have been customised for the ICG have high-intensity searchlights, full glass cockpits, traffic alert and collision avoidance systems, advanced communications, automatic identification systems, search and rescue (SAR) homers and automatic flight control systems.

They have been fitted with modern surveillance radar/electro-optical equipment to enable them to undertake long range maritime reconnaissance and SAR by day and night.

Keeping in mind the role of the ICG in preventing sea-borne terror strikes, hijackings, smuggling and poaching activities along the Indian coast, these helicopters have been equipped with a heavy machine gun.

“The helicopters also have a removable Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) that comes in handy during medical evacuations at Sea. The ICG has ordered 16 ALH Mark – IIIs from HAL. Of these 12 have been inducted in a phased manner. Four of them have now been commissioned to the Coast Guard Region (North East). The squadron started operations much before the formal commissioning and flew nearly 1,200 hours in the Dhruv Mk-IIIs. By now medical evacuations have been conducted from offshore Coast Guard platforms. Day/night ship helicopter operating limitations (SHOL) trials have also been carried out from OPVs. The helicopters have also carried out landings at dispersed helipads in Odisha and West Bengal,” the ICG official said.

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